We get a break today, Gandalf and I paddling his double. Isn’t a particularly good break, not real bad, either, but it’s a break.
The wind doing the new normal in the general direction of The Sisters, we figure to take advantage of her, before she us. Accompanied by 1-of-3, we paddle outa Bruno’s to Buckwheat and Chard islands, the far side of which the wind’s huffing ‘n puffing the hardest.
On the lee side of Buckwheat, outa the wind, Gandalf does a double gasp followed by an explosive expletive. “What’s up?” I say, some concern embedded in my question, Gandalf not prone to explosive expletives.
“Rudder’s foot pedal just broke!”
“Can you fIx it?”
“Not out here. That’ll have to wait till I get the boat back home.”
I think an expletive, don’t say it out loud. Gandalf’s double is round-bottomed with a bit of rocker, doesn’t have hard chines, is easily messed with if the wind’s in a mood.
The cable outa commission, the rudder’s stuck below the surface at a right angle to the stern. 1-of-3 paddles over, pops the rudder outa the water onto the rear deck, straightens it out, locks it into place.
Rudderless, we throw caution to the wind, paddle between Buckwheat and Chard, sticking to our original plan, going for the big tailwind. Not to pat ourselves on our backs, but we manage the loose-hipped boat, zigging and zagging here and there to The Sisters and back to Party Beach, only marginally outa control.
Rarely do we take out anywhere to shouted greetings of “Hello!” That said, “Hello” greets us on Party Beach this evening, the source a lone figure stranding near the water line. Nearby is a stand-up paddle board loaded with kelp, a colorful beach ball, bricks, a fishing pole, nets, and such.
Introductions done, we ask about the pile of goods on his SUP. “Stuff I’ve found that I can repurpose,” he says.
“The kelp?” we ask.
“Ballast,” he says. It is a big pile of kelp.
His paddle has two blades, not the single blade you see most stand-up paddlers using, this paddle kayak-like. “I paddle seated,” a simple answer to our question. This afternoon, he’s SUP’ed sitting down across the bay from Pt. San Pablo.
During our outing, we spotted two large sturgeon jumping clean outa the water, gray missiles reentering with magnificent splashes. “You ever catch a sturgeon?” eyeing his fishing gear.
“No,” he says, “stripers in season, maybe a few rock fish.” Pause. “But once I hooked a bat ray, pulled me 5 miles before I gave up, cut the line.”
We offer him dinner—salad, cherries, sweet potato fries spiffed up with chunks of salmon steak, blueberry scones—but he declines, says he has to get under way, meet a friend around the next set of points.
Sun’s down 20 minutes after his departure.
Before sunset, I foresee calm on our return paddle to Bruno’s. Here’s what I see: a blue sky only slightly hazy, a sky clear enough to remember evenings past when the wind never lasted 40 minutes past sunset. The old normal. Not forgotten, the old normal, tonight’s paddle to Bruno’s in mild conditions.
Conditions are so mild, Gandalf and I are able to navigate our rudderless double in a straight line, no loose hips, no wandering off course.
No wind to plug our ears, 1-of-3 and I groove to Fats Waller working the ivory, singing “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Ain’t Misbehavin’” from the tiny tape recorder Gandalf’s secreted away in his PFD. Hydrosound at its best.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
Date: Thurseve, 6 August 2020.
Distance: Five point seven nautical miles.
Speed: One point three knots.
Time: Four point five hours.
Spray factor: A bunch and none.
Dessert: Blueberry scones.
For a look to the past and a Gonzo of a report, check out the latest edition of
The Atlantic Coastal Kayaker: